Quarterback Controversy Already

Tampa Bay needs to decide on the present or the future during Saturday's draft.

By Jeff Berlinicke TAMPA – With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a quarterback controversy has started in April, long before whoever takes the first snap of the season steps behind center.

The job could go to incumbent Brian Griese, who had one of the few successful 2004 seasons for the 5-11 Bucs.

It could go to Chris Simms, the prodigy that has other NFL teams drooling but seems to have left Bucs coach Jon Gruden indifferent. Gruden apparently has his eyes elsewhere, such as the University of Utah where quarterback Alex Smith has the Bucs thinking about trading up from their No. 5 slot in Saturday's draft.

Who will it be? Griese brings veteran leadership and a continuity that the Bucs could use right now, especially after having to chop some high-priced salaries between now and June 1. Simms is intriguing, but hasn't proven himself at the NFL level. He had one start last year before suffering an injury, but for whatever reason, doesn't seem to have attracted a lot of love from Gruden.

Smith has a great arm and the mind to figure out the Bucs offensive scheme, but the Bucs, after two straight losing seasons, might not want to roll the dice on an untested rookie at quarterback, especially with so many other glaring holes.

Smith has a great arm, but so do Griese and Simms. To get Smith, the Bucs would likely have to trade up to the No. 2 hole which belongs to the Miami Dolphins in desperate need of just about everything. The Dolphins would love Smith or Aaron Rogers, expected to be taken with the No. 1 pick, owned by the San Francisco 49ers. The Dolphins would love a running back to replace Ricky Williams, but they also need a quarterback which might forced the Bucs to make a key decision. Do they call the Dolphins' bluff and hope that a top running back is left at No. 5? Or do they trade up, thinking that Smith will go to the Dolphins?

The one thing few pundits are talking about is whether the Bucs should trade down. The holes on the offensive line are enormous and the new wide receiver would really come in handy. Also, do they draft a linebacker or defensive back to replace Ronde Barber or Derrick Brooks, both of whom might be expendable to get under the salary cap?

For now, and the opinion can change at any moment, look for Auburn running back Cadillac Williams. Check here tomorrow because that opinion changes by the hour.

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